The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the U.S. could see significant steps toward a return to the pre-pandemic normal, even before the country reaches coronavirus herd immunity. (March 10)
The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the U.S. could see significant steps toward a return to the pre-pandemic normal, even before the country reaches coronavirus herd immunity. (March 10)
Yukon emergency officials are taking stock of their supplies of sandbags, water dams and other things they might need to deal with possible flooding and high water in the territory. Southern Yukon saw an unusually high amount of snowfall through the winter and early spring. And with warmer weather in recent days, the massive melt is underway. Kevin Lyslo, with the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, admits to "a little bit of concern this year." "As we're connecting with our stakeholders, we're gathering our information and as it gets closer and more melt is beginning, we're starting to get more and more accurate data," he said. Officials are looking at areas that are most at risk right now. Lyslo says they're gathering and preparing things they might need to send to troublesome spots, such as sandbags. "We're lining up technical experts before we're actually having events, to come and assist with, 'OK, we need to do sandbagging this high, this long, and this area,'" he said. "This weather that's hit us this week, you know, it's about normal — but it's come kind of fast. So it's got us paying quite close attention to what things are taking place out there." Southern Lakes area is focus of concern The biggest concern right now, Lyslo says, is the Southern Lakes area. Every spring, Yukon's water resources branch issues a monthly bulletin about the snow pack around the territory. The most recent one, based on measurements taken in early April, show just how snowy the winter was in southern Yukon. Southern Yukon had higher-than-normal snow pack in early April, while the central territory was closer to normal and the northern part of the territory was below normal.(Yukon government) Around Whitehorse, the snow-water equivalent on April 1 was about 196 per cent the historical median for the area. "This is the highest estimated basin-wide snow pack since records began in the early 1980s," said Holly Goulding, a senior hydrologist with the Yukon government. Other areas of the southern territory had snow pack that ranged from 131 to 154 per cent the historical average. Further north, around the Klondike region, the snow pack is closer to normal this spring. Still further north, around Old Crow, it's actually below normal. Goulding says the April snow bulletin typically represents the peak snow pack for the year, before the spring melt. And she says the risk of flooding each year doesn't just depend on how much snow is on the ground. "The timing and severity of temperature and rainfall patterns are really important drivers of flooding, regardless of snow pack levels," she said. "And so really, the weather conditions in the coming weeks will determine the most probable spring scenarios for both freshet and break up." Emergency officials hope the melt continues 'not too fast, not too slow,' with no rain thrown into the mix.(Paul Tukker/CBC) Lyslo says the hope is a melt the happens "not too fast, not too slow." "Rain is probably our biggest threat right now. I think if it got too wet too fast, that's not a good thing. We also don't want the snow to stay around and linger too far into the spring and into the summer," he said. "So it's kind of a happy medium is what we're hoping for right now." He's advising residents to take their own precautions against flood risk to their homes — for example, by shovelling snow away from the base of a house. And Lyslo says people should always be prepared for any kind of emergency, with a 72-hour supply kit ready at hand.
Drivers in British Columbia are keener than ever to buy electric vehicles, but the lack of charging stations in condo buildings is a major impediment. That's one of the findings of a report that was discussed at the Metro Vancouver Climate Action Committee on Friday. The report found that, although adoption of electric vehicles is key for the region to reduce its carbon emissions, there currently isn't enough infrastructure in multi-residential buildings to support drivers wanting to charge them at home. In Vancouver alone, 62 per cent of homes surveyed in the 2016 census were apartments. University of British Columbia business professor Werner Antweiler is familiar with the struggles of installing charging stations from scratch. Antweiler, who researches environmental economics, including electric vehicle adoption, helped to retrofit his 61-unit building to include charging stations for about a third of the units. He says the process took three years from start to finish. "I was officially professionally interested and nerdy enough to actually have enjoyed the process," he said. "But it took a lot of effort from a couple of really dedicated people to make it happen." UBC professor Werner Antweiler says public charging stations for electric vehicles are still sparse, driving a need for more drivers to charge their cars at home. (Ben Nelms/CBC) First, the changes had to be approved by a 75 per cent majority of the building's owners at a special meeting of the strata — the committee of volunteer owners that govern most privately-owned apartments in B.C. The strata's bylaws had to be changed to allow those who needed the extra power to pay for it themselves directly. Then, they had to hire a contractor to figure out if their 15-year-old building could even handle the extra power needs. Along the way were myriad other technical challenges and decisions that had to be figured out. While the strata paid a nominal amount for a feasibility study, the 25 condo owners who got a charging station in their parking spot each paid between $3,000 and $6,000. Antweiler says they're hoping to recoup 50 per cent of those costs through the province's EV charger rebate program, which closed Feb. 28 but is likely to be renewed. "We need to have charging essentially close to home to make it an interesting proposition for car owners," Antweiler said. "And we're still far away from getting us to that point, because the infrastructure we currently have for public charging ... is still pretty sparse." B.C. Hydro says there are 2,500 public charging stations throughout the province and more on their way this year. As for the rebate program, it says, by the end of 2020, 377 EV charging stations had been installed in condo and apartments buildings since 2018. All EVs in B.C. by 2040 British Columbia is aiming to have all personal vehicles on the road be electric by 2040. Electric vehicles are selling in record numbers in the province, and a recent survey from KPMG suggests that 68 per cent of Canadians who plan to buy a new vehicle in the next five years are likely to buy electric. And car manufacturers are increasingly onboard with building more electric models. In 2019, Volkswagen pledged to make all of its vehicles electric by 2026. Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C., says most stratas are willing to install charging stations but face multiple challenges. Gioventu says even some newer buildings on the market aren't equipped to accommodate charging stations — either because of the way their power is distributed or because their bylaws assign specific parking stalls to units. "It isn't just that there's a reluctance or resistance," he said. "It's just really daunting." A survey from KPMG suggests that nearly 70 per cent of Canadians interested in buying a new car in the next five years would like an electric vehicle. (Ben Nelms/CBC) Government support and regulations Some municipalities have mandated that all new buildings have the capacity to accommodate charging stations, and Gioventu says he would like to see more of those types of regulations. But that still leaves a lot of buildings that don't have the right infrastructure in place, and a volunteer committee to figure out how to navigate the regulations in place to upgrade it. Luckily, Gioventu says, there are companies that can help move the process along. But it still takes six months to two years for charging stations to be installed. What Gioventu would like to see is a rebate program that helps entire buildings restructure their electrical systems rather than a piecemeal approach that funds individual drivers. "In the long term it would be substantially less expensive rather than individual stations being modified," he said. BC Hydro says if the rebate program is approved again in this year's budget, it would include a separate program for condo and apartment buildings to fund assessment, infrastructure development and installation of electric vehicle charges.
Two Russian warships transited the Bosphorus en route to the Black Sea on Saturday and 15 smaller vessels completed a transfer to the sea as Moscow beefs up its naval presence at a time of tense relations with the West and Ukraine. The reinforcement coincides with a huge build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, something Moscow calls a temporary defensive exercise, and follows an escalation in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
A body recovered Friday is that of the man who fell through the ice on the North Saskatchewan River on April 6, Edmonton police confirm. The man, who attempted to rescue a woman's dog before falling through the ice, was identified by friends as Rob White, 55. After falling through the ice near Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park in Edmonton's river valley, White was carried down the river toward an ice shelf near Groat Bridge. Emergency crews lost sight of him and called off the search for White almost three hours later. The dog was rescued about a half-hour after Edmonton Fire Rescue Services were dispatched on the same day. White, who is survived by his wife and two sons, was remembered for his kindness and unique personality.
Victor Thunderchild stared down and overcame racism and stereotypes as he pursued his dream to become an educator. Working at the Carlton Comprehensive High School in Prince Albert, Sask., the 55-year-old was passionate about teaching future generations and allowing them to thrive. On Saturday morning, that work was cut short, when Victor died as a result of COVID-19. Now, his family is calling on the provincial government to ensure teachers are vaccinated to ensure no other family, or community, experiences the loss of someone who cared so much about so many. "Everywhere I turn, he taught somebody," said his wife, Violet Thunderchild. Students of Victor's went on to be doctors, lawyers and dentists, she said, noting some of the nurses who cared for him in the hospital in his final hours were past students of his. "He did make a really big difference in this community," she said. She says Victor, a champion of the Cree language and a proud Plains Cree man, was set to retire in 2022, but she said his work was far from over, as he wanted to continue teaching after his retirement. An intergenerational survivor of Canada's residential school system, Victor was a man who came from humble beginnings and the youngest of 12 children, Violet said. But through his work and dedication, he became the first person in his family to get a university degree, going on to earn a master's and use his education to help others. "He walked what he talked," she said of her husband of 33 years, stressing he was healthy before contracting COVID-19 and had no underlying health conditions. His family believes that he contracted COVID-19 while working at the high school. Family members say Victor Thunderchild, a well-known and well-loved teacher, touched many lives during his 29-year career, always using education as a tool of empowerment for others.(Victor Thunderchild/Facebook) Violet says while she and Victor had three children of their own, the couple helped support numerous adopted children during their life. His daughter, Renee, says her dad was one of a kind, and wherever he went, he carried himself with pride, even in the face of adversity. "He was the most perfect human being of a father," she said. "Even when it was a tough decision, he always made the right decision." Ryanda, another one of Victor's daughters, says he was always there for his students, helping to support them outside of the classroom as well. "He was very proud of who he was and he was very proud of being a Plains Cree First Nation man … and he always wanted other people to be proud of who they were, and to not let things get you down and to keep going," she said. "He wanted other young Aboriginal people to feel proud of being Native." Thunderchild's passion was evident online. His Twitter biography stated education is "the most powerful weapon of all." While in hospital with the virus, he continued to fight for his fellow teachers, tweeting directly at Premier Scott Moe and calling for educators to be vaccinated. "Thank you @PremierScottMoe for not thinking we're essential workers, as I sit in the @PAHealthDept Vic hospital recovering from COVID-19," he said in the April 5 tweet, which has since been shared hundreds of times. "Get my fellow teachers vaccinated, before this happens to anyone else." On Saturday, CBC News requested an interview with Education Minister Dustin Duncan for a response to the calls for teachers to be vaccinated, but he was not available. The Ministry of Education sent a statement offering its condolences to Thunderchild's family and loved ones. "Our thoughts are also with the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division community, and especially with the students who Mr. Thunderchild taught and with the Carlton Comprehensive High School staff that he worked with." It was evident that Thunderchild's "dedication to helping students was exceptional," the statement said. While the ministry acknowledged teachers have "put extraordinary effort into the safety and well-being of students" as the province moves through what is "hopefully the last leg of this pandemic," its statement did not say teachers will be prioritized for vaccination anytime soon, and instead encouraged teachers to get vaccinations as their age group becomes eligible. "Saskatchewan school divisions continue to have regular communication with their local medical health officers in making appropriate local decisions to enable education to continue as safely as possible," the statement said. 'A bright light of friendship' Jen Bear worked with Victor at Carlton Comprehensive, starting at the school roughly 20 years ago. She says for her, Victor was an adopted big brother who welcomed her with open arms. "He was so inviting and friendly and he was always one to make you feel welcome and make you a part of the community," she said. "He'd bring you alongside and he'd be introducing you as a new member — but also a new family member.… We were instantly family," said Bear. "He was a real role model who always brought a light, a bright light of friendship and happiness." Victor Thunderchild, who died as a result of COVID-19 on Saturday, is seen here with his wife, Violet. He is being remembered as a loving father, husband and educator who would do anything for his students and his family.(Violet Thunderchild/Facebook) Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, said the loss of Victor Thunderchild is being felt right across the province, as he was a leader and a friend to many. "He's going to leave a huge hole," he said. Maze recalled Thunderchild as an advocate for essential workers across the province, noting he was an active figure in the federation, fighting for his fellow teachers and for First Nations and treaty education. This is the first death of an educator in the province due to COVID-19 that Maze has been notified of, he said. Thunderchild's death brings with it "so many levels" of disappointment, as the teachers' federation has been advocating for educators to get priority for vaccination and for schools to move to Level 4 under the province's Safe Schools Plan, which would see schools move to more remote learning. "Right now, we need to focus on making sure his family is supported and making sure all his colleagues at Carlton and all of his contacts in Prince Albert are supported, but definitely, his death could have been prevented," Maze said. "We've been calling on protections for front-line workers right across the province, so this is incredibly frustrating," he said. "Unfortunately, our province lost a really great man."
A video of a Saskatoon security guard making an arrest has sparked questions online over civilian arrests and use of force this week. An investigative consultant said while an arrest may be legal, it's up to police and courts to determine if the use of force was "reasonable." The incident in question happened at the FreshCo on 33rd Street West in Saskatoon's Mayfair neighbourhood. What led to the incident is not entirely clear. The nine-minute video was recorded by a witness and shows a man who identifies himself as the grocery store's security guard trying to force handcuffs on a woman. The guard can be heard accusing her of stealing as bystanders plead with him to let her go and let police handle it. "The issue will be, did this person have reasonable grounds to believe that this person had committed an offence? And then the second question is, did he use reasonable force in attempting to arrest this person?" said Jay Watson, a lawyer with Cuelenaere LLP in Saskatoon. Watson said it's a complicated situation as there's a security guard present, with a job to prevent theft, who believes he has witnessed theft by a civilian. He then goes to make a citizen's arrest. Anyone can make a civilian's arrest if there are reasonable grounds and a reasonable use of force, he said. GRAPHIC WARNING | Federation of Soveirgn Indigenous Nations calls for guard to be fired: The main difference between a security guard making a civilian arrest and a police officer putting someone under arrest is that police officers have legislation protecting them if they are wrong, said Watson. "If just the security guard doesn't have reasonable probable grounds, was found by a court or uses unreasonable force, he can be sued and he may be committing an offence," he said. Watson said everyone has opinions, but it's going to be up to police and the courts to have the final say. Jay Watson is a civil and criminal lawyer with Cuelenaere LLP in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Jay Watson) "It's definitely not black and white. It's grey. As lawyers and judges, we're used to that," he said. "From the public's point of view, I can see there's no easy solution to this issue." Bruce Pitt-Payne, a former RCMP officer and investigation consultant, said it's section 94 of the Criminal Code of Canada that allows citizens to arrest people if they have grounds to. But Saskatoon police will be looking closely at all aspects of this situation. "The security guard would have to prove to them that he had the actual lawful grounds to make the arrest. If that happens and it's shown to be valid, then the police would still have to look at the reasonableness and the proportionality of the use of force," Pitt-Payne said. "Meaning, what would a reasonable person believe? That's the test, the simplistic version." This specific situation is complicated as the security guard was allegedly injured as well, Pitt-Payne said. At this time, police would treat both people involved as suspects and victims and interview witnesses, look at medical records and video evidence. That may take time. We have to always be fair enough to remember that de-escalation only works if all parties involved want it to work. - Bruce Pitt-Payne Pitt-Payne said de-escalation training should be increased tenfold for police and security guards alike. He said there can never be enough training, but more so for security guards who typically have drastically less training than police officers. "We have to always be fair enough to remember that de-escalation only works if all parties involved want it to work. So it isn't always just a training issue. It's unfortunately very much dependent ... the result ... on what each of the people involved in that situation want to do." Security guard and use of force training instructor says video hard to watch Joel Pedersen said it's hard to see the video. The former Saskatoon Police Officer now runs 2J2 Fitness and 2J2 Security, training security guards across Saskatchewan. Pedersen said he doesn't want to be a sideline quarterback and say what should have happened, but it's sad to see situations get out of control. "Often we think about having balance, especially when emotions are high and trying to bring that level minded behaviour in line," Pedersen said. "It's really challenging to say what could have been done." Joel Pedersen is the owner of J2J Fitness and J2J Security. (Submitted by Joel Pedersen) Pedersen said through his experience as a police officer for over 25 years, he knows it's a challenge for police to be everywhere all the time. He said security workers — such as the community support workers or security guards — step up and bridge that gap, but need proper training. "I think that's a huge support to the police service and the overall safety of the city," Pedersen said. "But the training that we want to provide is humane. So that when the security officer or security guard, if he or she does have to defend themselves … they do it in a humane fashion." On Friday when speaking to CBC Saskatchewan, Pedersen was conducting a training session with the Downtown Community Support Officers that work in Saskatoon's downtown. The session was scheduled before the incident took place and was teaching communication and techniques for de-escalation. Pedersen said de-escalation is a key element of security training and work and starts with responses and being proactive before things get out of control. "I don't believe the security guard's role is to take the place of the police by any stretch of the imagination," Pedersen said. "A lot of the work should be gathering out information and reporting that information." When incidents like this do occur, it's important they are recorded, reported on and looked at, Pedersen said. He said it's about focusing on how to correct it and have professionals do better in the future. "It is unfortunate to see that kind of incident take place in Saskatoon, because sometimes we think in our own bubble of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, that these kinds of things don't happen here. But they do." The head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said on Thursday the FreshCo incident was one instance of violence Indigenous women face. He called for the guard to be fired. Pedersen said that it can help the community to have Indigenous people trained in these guard roles.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The 300-million-year-old shark’s teeth were the first sign that it might be a distinct species. The ancient chompers looked less like the spear-like rows of teeth of related species. They were squatter and shorter, less than an inch long, around 2 centimetres. “Great for grasping and crushing prey rather than piercing prey,” said discoverer John-Paul Hodnett, who was a graduate student when he unearthed the first fossils of the shark at a dig east of Albuquerque in 2013. This week, Hodnett and a slew of other researchers published their findings in a bulletin of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science identifying the shark as a separate species. He named the 6.7-foot (2 metre) monster Dracopristis hoffmanorum, or Hoffman’s Dragon Shark, in honour of the New Mexico family that owns the land in the Manzano Mountains where the fossils were found. Hodnett says the area is rife with fossils and easy to access because of a quarry and other commercial digging operations. The name also harkens to the dragon-like jawline and 2.5-foot (0.75-meter) fin spines that inspired the discovery’s initial nickname, “Godzilla Shark.” The formal naming announcement followed seven years of excavation, preservation and study. The 12 rows of teeth on the shark's lower jaw, for example, were still obscured by layers of sediment after excavation. Hodnett only saw them by using an angled light technique that illuminates objects below. Hodnett is now the paleontologist and program co-ordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission’s Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland. His fellow researchers come from the New Mexico museum, as well as St. Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania, Northern Arizona University, and Idaho State University. The recovered fossil skeleton is considered the most complete of its evolutionary branch —ctenacanth — that split from modern sharks and rays around 390 million years ago and went extinct around 60 million years later. Back then, eastern New Mexico was covered by a seaway that extended deep into North America. Hodnett and his colleagues believe that Hoffman’s dragon shark most likely lived in the shallows along the coast, stalking prey like crustaceans, fish and other sharks. New Mexico's high desert plateaus have also yielded many dinosaur fossils, including various species of tyrannosaurus that roamed the land millions of years ago when it was a tropical rain forest. ___ Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for Americ a is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter. Cedar Attanasio, The Associated Press
A metal unicorn that goes by the name of "Morgan the Mystical Unicorn" has been found after it disappeared from its station overnight in a small southern Alberta community. The statue isn't in the best shape, however. "We're ecstatically happy, but he needs to go to the hospital after he hits forensics," joked Dave Smeyers, who owns the unicorn that stood in the village of Delia, about 170 kilometres northeast of Calgary. "I haven't seen him personally, but it looks like somebody cut his horn off and put it in upside down." Standing 12 feet high (about 4.6 metres), measured to the tip of the horn, the unicorn is made of stainless steel, with gold hair, hooves and a white body. It weights 600 pounds (about 272 kilograms) and was originally fabricated by welders in Texas 15 years ago. Smeyers and his partner acquired the unicorn and put it outside their store, Hand Hills Crafts Village Market, in order to draw people in and help with business and tourism in Delia. "It's kind of the village mascot," he said. And while he doesn't know who the culprit is, Smeyers guesses that it was a school prank of some sort. "It's going to be expensive to fix as well," he said, adding that it will cost around $1,000 to get it transported alone. "So we'll get the RCMP to go out and we're hoping we can get it all fingerprinted," Morgan the unicorn went missing from its home on Friday.(Jaydee Bixby) The owners of the unicorn were alerted Morgan was missing around 8:30 a.m. Friday. They rushed to the site, only to find the unicorn gone with nothing but tire tracks and footprints left behind. By Saturday morning, the statue was found in a field just north of the small community. "This is a very sad prank and … it's the town's spirit that these people are playing with," said Smeyers. Jaydee Bixby lives two doors down from where Morgan proudly stood. "It's a pretty magical thing in our small town, we've got a small population, about 215 people," he said. He says it's been there over a year and definitely draws people to the town who might not have visited before.
Along with allowing playgrounds to now remain open, Ontario is walking back the increased powers it gave to police after intense backlash.
Alberta reported 1,486 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and three more deaths from the illness. The number of active cases increased by 548 across the province, according to the latest update from Alberta Health, bringing the total to 17,307. Cases of COVID-19 virus variants increased by 977 to 9,417 the latest numbers show. Variants now make up 54.4 per cent of active cases in Alberta. Provincial labs completed 16,353 tests for COVID-19 on Friday, with a positivity rate around 9.2 per cent. Hospitalizations increased by 18 to 445 on Saturday, including 94 people who are being treated for COVID-19 in intensive care units. Of the three reported deaths, two — a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 70s — were in the Calgary zone, and one man in his 90s died in the Edmonton zone. Since the outset of the pandemic, 2,037 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta. Here is the breakdown of active cases by health zone: Calgary zone: 7,453 Edmonton zone: 4,388 Central zone: 1,629 South zone: 928 North zone: 2,285 Unknown: 76 As of Saturday, 1,121,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered.
Saskatchewan RCMP are asking for the public's help in locating a man charged in connection with what they say appears to be a gang-related shootout in Meadow Lake earlier this week. Just before midnight on Tuesday, officers were called to a business in the 600 block of First Avenue following a report of gunshots. They were told two groups of people were involved in an altercation outside the business, during which a weapon was fired several times, RCMP said in a Thursday news release. At one point, shots were fired through a bystander's windshield, Mounties said. Police believe up to five people were involved, who then fled on foot. No arrests have been made, and no injuries have been reported to police. RCMP said they continue to investigate the incident as "related to street gang involvement." 19-year-old likely en route to Alberta On Friday, Meadow Lake RCMP issued a second news release in connection with the incident, saying an arrest warrant had been issued for Raheem Hagan. The 19-year-old is charged with intentionally and recklessly firing a gun. Hagan is described by RCMP as six foot two and roughly 190 pounds ,with a slim build, black hair and brown eyes. Police believe Hagan could be en route to Edmonton. RCMP urge anyone who sees Hagan not to approach him, as he's considered armed and dangerous. Instead, anyone with any information regarding Hagan's whereabouts is asked to contact Meadow Lake RCMP at 306-236-2570 or anonymously through Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Two 13-year-olds were arrested and charged with arson Saturday, in connection to a grass fire in a Spruce Grove, Alta. field next to a residential neighbourhood. Parkland RCMP and the Parkland Fire Department responded to reports of an arson north of Highway 16A near Jennifer Heil Way, about 30 kilometres west of Edmonton on Saturday at 1:45 p.m., police said. Bales had been lit on fire and were found smouldering, Const. Patrick Lambert said. Parkland Fire remained on scene after the fire was put under control. Damages are estimated at $10,000 and 150 bales were lost in the fire, police said. The two youths were arrested and charged with arson. They are scheduled to appear in Stony Plain Provincial Court on June 4. Parkland County remains under a fire ban which went into effect Thursday, prohibiting all outdoor fires including recreation fire pits and charcoal briquette barbeques. Westlock County north of Edmonton and Lac Ste. Anne County, northwest of Edmonton have also implemented fire restrictions, as a dry central Alberta faces wildfire season. Alberta Wildfire also had fire advisories in effect for the Edson and Rocky Mountain House Forest Areas on Saturday. "Any spark, hot exhaust or friction will catch easily and burn quickly which could start a wildfire," Alberta Wildfire said in wildfire danger alert.
OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19 vaccines to grow their international soft power by giving doses to desperate countries in order to have more political influence over them, experts say. Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center in Washington, called the practice "vaccine diplomacy," noting that it happens when countries seek to grow their international prestige by distributing vaccines to nations that need them. He said authoritarian governments, including those in China and Russia, have taken the lead in vaccine diplomacy in the last months. "It's never encouraging to see the world's largest dictatorships taking most advantage of this diplomatic opportunity," Gedan said. The China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp., Sinopharm, is producing two COVID-19 vaccines while Sinovac, a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company, is making a third one. Gedan said while China had offered bilateral loans of US$1 billion in Latin America, it refused to give COVID-19 vaccines to Paraguay, which recognizes Taiwan diplomatically. "There have been reports from the foreign minister of Paraguay that intermediaries of the Chinese government explicitly said that Paraguay will not access the Chinese vaccine unless it changes its position on Taiwan," he said. He added there have been reports that Brazil, which is suffering one of the world's worst COVID-19 outbreaks, could not access Chinese vaccines without committing to allow Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from accessing its 5G wireless network auction. Lynette Ong, an associate political science professor at the University Of Toronto, said China has donated or sold its COVID-19 vaccine to almost all southeast Asian countries. "It usually comes with some sort of strings attached," she said. "There's definitely vaccine diplomacy going on quite aggressively by China." China's vaccine diplomacy is not as effective as its personal-protective equipment diplomacy was last year, Ong said. She said China was the only major producer of personal protective equipment last year while it's competing now with many other countries that are producing different types of COVID-19 vaccines. "China was not the first (country) to have the vaccine produced and manufactured," she said. Ong said China has invested a lot in boosting its soft power in developing countries from Latin America, Africa and southeast Asia, but it has also received a lot of pushback. "There is so much pushback against Huawei just because it is a Chinese brand, right, not because people have found evidence that we can squarely put Huawei in the category of espionage," she said. Aurel Braun, a Russian foreign policy professor at the University of Toronto, said Russia has been pushing particular political agendas and integrating vaccine diplomacy as a much more significant element of its foreign policy than China. "China is much wealthier, has a far larger economy than Russia. It is able to provide all kinds of other economic benefits. Providing the vaccine is one of many options that they have," he said. "(For Russia,) The Sputnik V (vaccine) is a much more important tool, and they have been especially focusing in certain parts of Europe or where leaders have been more sympathetic to Mr. Putin's policy ... like Viktor Orban in Hungary or in Slovakia." Jillian Kohler, a pharmacy and public health professor at the University of Toronto, said China and Russia saw an opportunity in the lack of COVID-19 vaccine supply, and they are taking advantage of that to further their political goals. "If ... Russia or China aren't actually asking for something explicitly, there's an implicit bargain happening here," she said. "Countries are turning to Russia and China because they're desperate, so when you do that, I mean, you're in a position of weakness, and when you're in a position of weakness that might mean at some point that you're going to have to compensate for that." Gedan, the Washington-based Wilson Center expert, said the United States may soon share its supply of COVID-19 vaccines globally, which would limit China and Russia's ability to influence other countries using their supplies. "I think we're rapidly approaching the moment where the United States will be able to play a major role in the global vaccination campaign," he said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently named Gayle Smith, who headed the US Agency for International Development under former president Barack Obama, to a new position as the U.S. coordinator for global COVID-19 response to support a worldwide effort to inoculate against the novel coronavirus. Gedan said the United States has made some efforts to be helpful by committing US$4 billion to COVAX, a World Health Organization program, and by sending Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shipments to Mexico and Canada. But these efforts are going to be more significant soon when the U.S begins exporting more of its Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, he said. He said the United States is planning to do most of its vaccine distributions through COVAX, which means they will get distributed to both friendly governments and adversarial countries. "(The U.S. approach is) to distribute vaccines in a way that reflects, you know, public health needs and not foreign policy goals," he said. Most countries are not only struggling with a lack of capacity to produce vaccines locally but also with a lack of resources to procure vaccines from the companies that are making them, he said. He said the lack of a local capacity to produce vaccines has slowed Canada's vaccination campaign, but Canada has been able to purchase an extraordinary number of doses. "Eventually, Canada will likely be exporting some of these vaccines that it has purchased that are above and beyond its local need." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021. ------ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
A Vancouver couple is calling Saint Andrews home without ever experiencing the town first-hand. Zainub and Ben Faulkner-Malik have been self-isolating at home in Charlotte County, since arriving two weeks ago. "It's a bizarre feeling because we feel like we've been here already," said Faulkner-Malik, from her new home in Saint Andrews. People have been dropping things off and sending messages — and they haven't even met their neighbours yet. Now that we're here, we made the best decision - Zainub Faulkner-Malik "The way the community has made us feel has got us really excited about when we can step outside our property lines and meet people and walk around the town itself." They're the new owners of the Montague Rose Bed and Breakfast. It's a historic building from the 1850s and can be found in the heart of downtown. "It's just magnificent," said the interior designer. "It's just way grander than I ever could have imagined." Deer problem a new experience And everyday, they're learning something new about the property or the area — such as the town's growing deer population. Last year, deputy mayor Brad Henderson told CBC News, a typical community of its size would have between three and five deer per square kilometre. In Saint Andrews, there are more than 20 deer per square kilometre. "People have hit multiple deer coming in and out of town," he previously said. "There's been situations where motorcyclists have hit them … there's been deer that have actually run into people." But Faulkner-Malik is looking forward to the wildlife. "I'll take the deer over the car and busy streets any day," she said. A home away from home They are hoping to make the business a place where residents and visitors can come and feel at home this summer. The couple will be taking bookings come May and by June, they're also hoping to add a tearoom, that will feature High Tea and traditional English treats. They're also want to bring a fresher look to the historic home for visitors, including new furnishings, modern technology "and also give them a really friendly visit as well." The couple started to think about moving when the first lockdown happened about a year ago. They felt like they were stuck inside their 500-square foot apartment. "We were really going stir-crazy," she said. Zainub Faulkner-Malik is hopeful guests will be able to visit in June.(The Montague Rose B&B Instagram) That's when they decided to look at real-estate across the country. "Fast forward a year and we just kind of pulled the plug," she said. Then they discovered Saint Andrews after seeing it was voted by USA Today in 2017 as the top destination in Canada for travellers. "We found a property. We put an offer in. And now we're here." Despite their fears, the couple said the move made sense. Faulkner-Malik had previously run a bed and breakfast in Australia. She had always dreamt of starting another one. Then along came COVID. "It was really risky and it was pretty scary," she said. "There were moments we were very unsure when we were putting our offer in." The couple plan to document their new Maritime adventure on YouTube and social media, to inspire others looking to move. "Now that we're here, we made the best decision."
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The man accused of going on a shooting rampage at a Southern California business, killing four people, should not have been allowed to buy or own guns because of a California law that prohibits people from purchasing weapons for 10 years after being convicted of a crime. Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez was convicted of battery in 2015, which should have kept him from possessing or buying guns or ammo at stores that conduct background checks. While it's unclear how Gaxiola, 44, acquired the weapons used in the March 31 shooting, the tragedy raises concerns over California's ability to enforce strict gun control laws, the Sacramento Bee reported on Friday, Police say Gaxiola had targeted Unified Homes, the mobile home brokerage company in Orange, and had personal and business relationships with the victims. His estranged wife had worked in the business for more than 10 years as a broker assistant. The shooting occurred nearly six years after Gaxiola pleaded guilty to misdemeanour battery, which should have put him on the list prohibiting him from owning firearms for the next 10 years. The list is used during the state's gun and ammunition background check process. Two weeks after the mass shooting, police learned Gaxiola was not on the “Prohibited Persons List,” though he might still have been blocked from buying a gun during a standard background check, Orange Police Lt. Jennifer Amat said. Detectives were still working on tracing the Glock semi-automatic handgun and ammunition, she said. It's rare that a background check misses a prohibited person, or that a dealer would decide to still sell to a banned customer, said Steve Lindley, a former California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms chief who now works as a program manager at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Even with all the stopgaps in a “very, very good system,” Lindley said, people still acquire guns illegally. “Unfortunately, where you have strict gun laws, there will always be a market for illegal firearms,” Lindley said. “Because people want to get them one way or another.” California in 2016 became the first and only state in the nation to establish the Armed and Prohibited Persons System for tracking firearm owners who fall into a prohibited category based on their criminal histories or their risk to themselves or others. The system is intended to prevent gun violence by blocking those deemed too risky to own a firearm from possessing a gun or buying one. Pulling records from several databases, the system is supposed to alert authorities when someone who once legally purchased a firearm is placed on the prohibited persons list. Agents with the Department of Justice, which manages the state’s background check system, will then track a prohibited person to confiscate their weapons and ammunition. The agency says it lacks the staff to clear a backlog in cases — a problem officials noted became more pronounced because of staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. Without knowing more about how Gaxiola got his handgun and ammunition, there are “missing pieces to the story that are critical,” to understanding whether he obtained it because of an institutional failure, said Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at UC Davis Medical Center, where he is the director of the Violence Prevention Research Program. Gaxiola, 44, was charged with four murder counts and three attempted murder counts for firing at two officers who shot and wounded him when he fired at them with his handgun, and for critically wounding a woman. She was the mother of a 9-year-old boy who died in her arms. Gaxiola's arraignment has been repeatedly postponed because he remains hospitalized and unable to communicate with his court-appointed attorneys. Associated Press, The Associated Press
An Alberta family is celebrating a century of farming. Earlier this month, Ed and Ellen Plunkie received the Alberta Century Farm and Ranch Award — a distinction for families who have continuously owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years. "It is quite an honour, since there aren't many awards in the [farming] life, other than what you make for yourselves," Ellen told CBC News on Friday. Ed's father and uncle immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1919. The brothers arrived in Montreal, but like many immigrants, were told to head west to the prairies, where land was cheap. The next year, for "a few bucks," Ed said his father took out the title on a piece of land in what is now Leduc County, southwest of the City of Leduc. Ed, one of nine children, was born on the farm in the cold morning of December 22, 1935. "Dad had to get the old Model A Ford started and get the doctor," he said. When Ed was a teenager, his father started passing out in the yard and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes. Since Ed's older siblings were working in the oilpatch at the time, his parents turned to him for help with the farm duties. By 18, he was running the place. He met his wife-to-be at 21. Ellen lived nearby and had also grown up on a farm. Both recall childhoods full of manual chores, with no electricity or running water. "The kids nowadays don't know what a day's work is," Ed said. For 40 years, the family raised Holstein cattle and ran a dairy farm. After they sold the dairy farm, they switched to Angus cattle. Families who provide historical documentation that their farms have been family-run for a century or longer receive a cast bronze plaque from the province.(Rod Kurtz/CBC) Ed, now 85, recovered from heart valve surgery last year. The octogenarian has no plans to live anywhere else. "I'm going to live here as long as I can walk," he said. One of the couple's grandchildren, Chris Bonnard, plans to take over the farm's daily operations. Bonnard grew up farming after school and watching his grandfather haul cattle and manoeuvre equipment. He worked in the oilpatch but grew tired of it, preferring to be his own boss, even if it meant working longer days. Bonnard said he's excited to run the farm. His grandparents are happy to hand over the reins. "That means a lot to us that he wants to do it," Ed said. "He's got to do the next 100 years."
A Smithers woman is pushing for the northern B.C. town to allow cremation after she drove for two hours to the nearest crematorium with the body of her infant son in the car, days after his stillbirth in 2015. "It's an absolute nightmare for any parent to have to deal with," said Jill McDonald. Smithers has an 86 per cent cremation rate for deceased residents, according to a 2019 B.C. Vital Statistics report, but it does not allow cremation within its boundaries. This leaves only two options for individuals who choose that method: work with the local funeral home to transport their deceased to another town, or transport their deceased themselves. An application was submitted to the town in November 2020 to adjust its zoning bylaws and allow crematory services within its boundaries. A public hearing on the topic will be held April 27. This is frustrating for McDonald who said the option for alternative transport was not even discussed with her or her husband after her stillbirth. "We were handed a death certificate and told we could stay the night or we could go home," McDonald told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. "So we went through the process of laying his body to rest." McDonald said that process included phoning the funeral home in Smithers, filling out the appropriate paperwork, picking up his body from the local morgue and driving 250 kilometres to the nearest crematorium in Terrace with a small coffin on their back seat. Laurel Menzel is the crematorium operator who made the zoning bylaw amendment application to the town. Menzel said that McDonald's story is not unique and that families often have to take responsibility for transporting their deceased outside of Smithers to be cremated. If the rezoning takes place, Menzel hopes to offer the service. "Death care, by and large, is an extension of health care and death care done well brings people peace and closure," Menzel said. "And death care done poorly brings people grief and trauma." In a written statement, Smithers general manager of infrastructure Mark Allen acknowledged that while funeral parlours and undertaking establishments are permitted uses, crematory services are currently not permitted in the town's bylaws. "The business demand may justify the need for the crematorium use, and may play a part in town council's decision," he said. "But the purpose of the public hearing is for council to receive feedback from the public and for council to weigh all the information received to make an informed decision on permitting the crematorium use in Smithers' industrial areas."
A Nova Scotia family whose three-year-old son disappeared last year has been the subject of vicious online attacks, including being accused of killing their child, are trying to use a new law to get the cyberbullying to stop.
Police in Regina are asking for the public's help in finding a 13-year-old girl reported missing last weekend. Stellayna Fay Severight was last seen on the 5500 block of Rochedale Boulevard at roughly 3:15 p.m. CST on Saturday, April 10, police say. She was last seen wearing black sweatpants, a black hoodie, white runners and a pink hat. She is described as about five foot one and approximately 110 pounds, with a thin build and a medium complexion. She has brown eyes and short, wavy brown hair. Police say there is no evidence she has been harmed, but she is vulnerable due to her age and there is concern for her well-being. Anyone with information about the teen is asked to call the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Police in Portland, Oregon, said Saturday they arrested four people after declaring a riot Friday night when protesters smashed windows, burglarized businesses and set multiple fires during demonstrations that started after police fatally shot a man while responding to reports of a person with a gun. Police said they dispersed the crowd so firefighting crews could douse fires before they spread in extreme fire hazard conditions. The vandalism downtown came after the police shooting earlier Friday and also was part of vigils and demonstrations already planned for the night in the name of people killed in police shootings nationwide. They include 13-year-old Adam Toledo of Chicago and Daunte Wright, a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb. Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told reporters a white man in his 30s had been shot and killed in Portland by police. The man was pronounced dead at the scene in Lents Park, a leafy, residential neighbourhood of the city. Two officers fired a 40mm device that shoots non-lethal projectiles, and one officer — an eight-year veteran — fired a gun, police said in a statement. Police identified the officer who fired his gun as Zachary Delong. He is on paid administrative leave, authorities said. Davis did not know if the man who died had pointed a weapon at the officers and did not say how many shots were fired. A witness who spoke to reporters at the scene said the man, who had removed his shirt and was blocking an intersection, appeared to be in a mental health crisis, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The police investigation into the shooting was hampered by a crowd of “fairly aggressive people” who showed up at the park within two hours of the shooting. Those arrested could face charges ranging from assaulting a public safety officer to criminal mischief. There were no reports of injuries to police. As investigators worked the scene of the shooting and huddled over a covered body, nearly 100 yards (91 metres) away, a crowd of more than 150 people — many dressed in all black and some carrying helmets, goggles and gas masks — gathered behind crime scene tape, chanting and yelling at officers standing in front of them. “We’ve had to summon just about every police officer in Multnomah County to keep this group far enough away … to preserve what we refer to in our business as the integrity of the scene, so that nobody who shouldn’t be in there goes in there,” Davis said, adding that deputies with county sheriff’s office were also helping. The crowd later marched through the park, ripped down police tape and stood face to face with officers dressed in riot gear. Police left the park around 3:30 p.m., and the crowd eventually stood in a nearby intersection, blocking traffic and chanting. Police said they had used pepper spray on protesters in order to keep them away. Some people hit officers with sticks and chased them as they were leaving, police said in a news release. Officers deployed smoke canisters and then used a rubber ball distraction device, police said. Portland has been the site of frequent protests, many involving violent clashes between officers and demonstrators, since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Over the summer, there were demonstrations for more than 100 straight days. Earlier this week, a crowd set a fire outside the city's police union headquarters following recent fatal police shootings in Chicago and Minneapolis. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has decried what he described as a segment of violent agitators who detract from the message of police accountability and should be subject to more severe punishment. Wheeler visited the Friday shooting scene and issued a statement urging Portland residents to “proceed with empathy and peace” while the investigation unfolds. These shootings always are traumatic for everyone involved and for our community, regardless of the circumstances,” Wheeler said. “I want to offer my sympathy to the individual involved and to their family. My thoughts also are with the officers who were involved.” Todd Littlefield, who lives near where the shooting happened, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he went to the park after he heard gunfire. Littlefield said he saw several officers standing behind trees and their cars, ordering a man to show his hands. Juan Chavez, an attendant at a nearby gas station, said he saw a man standing in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic, with his shirt off. He appeared to be unstable and disoriented, Chavez told the newspaper. Police then showed up, and the man entered the park before Chavez said he heard two gunshots. ___ This story corrects location from Minneapolis to Minneapolis suburb in paragraph 3. ____ Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Sara Cline And Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press